Rana Mitter

From Beijing with Love

Great State: China and the World

By

Profile 442pp £25 order from our bookshop

In 1616, the year of Shakespeare’s death, a drama played out thousands of miles away in Beijing. Two court officials were arguing about how Italian Jesuits in China should be treated. One of these, Shen Que, was convinced that they were spreading seditious views and should be expelled forthwith. The other, Xu Guangqi, argued that the foreigners brought valuable new ideas to the country, enabling Confucianism and Christianity to engage respectfully with each other. In the end, the Jesuits were taken to the Portuguese territory of Macao, from where they were supposed to be sent to Europe; they stayed there, however, and two of them even returned to Beijing. Such ambivalence about foreign influence in China has lasted for centuries. We tend to hear much about the nationalistic, prickly part of China’s world-view these days. Timothy Brook’s Great State puts forward an elegant and compelling argument for why we should look at the cosmopolitan part of the Chinese mind-set as well.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter